Article by: Dave LaForce
PARIS – The 3-NOLANS First Nation Hockey School came to the Brant Sports Complex in Paris last week to pass on not only two generations of NHL-level hockey knowledge, but also a message about the power of hard work and determination in life as well.
Dozens of young Onkwehon:we future stars hung on their every word as Buffalo Sables coach and NHL Coach-of-the-Year winner, Ted Noland and his two sons, former Carolina Hurricane, Brandon, and two time Stanley Cup winner with the L.A. Kings, Jordan Nolan, encouraged Onkwehon:we youth to shoot for their dreams, no matter what they might be.
The 3 NOLANS Hockey Camp is a 5-day skills development camp for boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 14 years. Nolan, joined by his two sons Brandon and Jordan, have developed a program that works with First Nation youth to further develop their hockey skills and knowledge.
This past Thursday the 3-Nolans Hockey School hosted a pizza party and roundtable for the players and their parents at the Paris arena where the school was held. When asked why he invests so much effort in the hockey camp he said, “I love doing the hockey thing, I really do. I grew up at Garden River First Nation outside of Sault Ste. Marie. It’s a small place where I grew up with the Ojibwa nation. Growing up there was probably one of the best times of my entire life going back to the pow wows and missing people, going to the Lil NHL, having a dream as young boy playing with the National Hockey League.”
He pointed out that the most important thing is not so much playing the game.
“It’s a wonderful game but we’re trying to pass on to everyone how important it is to be a good boy or be a good girl, growing up making good decisions,” he said. “Last night we were up at Six Nations community hall and both the boys said something to my wife and I. They said, ‘a big part of who we are, the decisions we made, and some of the things we did growing up are thanks to you.’”
That has always been very important in the Nolan household.
“Brandon had 62 games in Oshawa and I think we caught every one of those games,” said the senior Nolan. “Jordan played in a different place and we caught all of those games. We were there for their schooling, for off-ice activities like baseball, all those things, and we don’t realize how important this role is for us parents, to really, really be there for the kids to support and encourage them. What we always say at First Nation communities is how important this generation of kids are. I’m so proud of this week and I see some kids on this ice that hopefully, if I’m still coaching in Buffalo about 10 years from now, that I will see some of these kids up there because we could sure use some of the talent from here up there. There are a lot of talented kids here. Whether you play in the National Hockey League or not, the most important thing is playing sports and making friends and making connections with kids from other communities.”
He went on to praise the young hockey-campers and to encourage their dreams.
“Last year, one of the most amazing things to me is watching our children get better every day throughout the week,” he said. “People just need an opportunity and the rest is up to us to work.”
He spoke of one young Onkwehon:we boy in particular who impressed him.
“One of the participants last year, I think it was his first year on the ice, his name was Easton,” he recalled. “Easton didn’t play hockey all winter and he’s probably still the most improved. I am amazed at the skill level that he has reached just by doing that. The most important thing is coming here and making some plays, I admit that’s the most important thing. I have played hockey myself, for the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins and coached the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. One of the greatest things that I remembered about hockey at a young age was going to the Lil NHL, meeting other Anishinaabe people from other communities, and others like the Mohawks and the Senecas, and I think we are all one big family. It’s great to see all brown faces here today. It’s been a pleasure and I’m really proud of Brandon coming down here and taking a break from school. It’s been wonderful opportunity to get know the kids and work with them.”
Following the Paris camp, the 3-NOLANS moves on to other communities with large urban Native populations or with reserves close by.